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Talk: Commoning or Being Commoned? The Institutions and Politics of Collective Housing in Bangkok, Thailand

September 12 @ 12:00 PM 1:00 PM

Saunders Hall 443B


Dr. Hayden Shelby, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Hawaii at Manoa


In 2018, Garrett Hardin’s seminal essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” turned 50. The anniversary has prompted scholars from many disciplines in the environmental and social sciences to reflect on Hardin’s (in)famous thesis and to look with renewed enthusiasm at the many examples of functioning commons in the world. In this talk, I consider the commons in the urban context by examining the case of the Baan Mankong (“Secure Housing”) housing program in Thailand, which operates through the creation of communal forms of land tenure and collective finance. Creating commons, or “commoning,” in the city involves maneuvering in a complex landscape of existing state and market institutions. I analyze how different community-based organizations with divergent histories, political motivations, and relationships with state agencies carry out their Baan Mankong projects in this complicated environment. I demonstrate how some communities are able to mold state institutions to meet their needs because of the political strategies of the higher-level organizations they belong to, whereas others must mold themselves to the regulations and systems of collective management imposed on them by the various government agencies involved in the policy. These different experiences, which I call “commoning” versus “being commoned,” illustrate both the tragedies and triumphs that can occur in the large-scale creation of urban commons.

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